NEW RESPONSIBILITIES FOR TRISH, RICHARD AND LOUISE

Following the Annual Council Meeting, held on 20 May 2024, where membership of Council committees is decided, Trish, Richard and Louise continue to have important new responsibilities. Louise is continuing for a second year as our Deputy Mayor. Sutton South Councillors have made a major contribution to the Mayoralty, as prior to Louise accepting this role Trish was Mayor of Sutton for three years. Richard was Mayor of Sutton in 2016-17. Louise is now combining this role with being Chair of the Licensing Committee, and is a member of the important Housing, Economy and Business Committee.

Trish continues as Chair of the important Audit and Governance Committee and is a member of the important Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee. Richard will continue as Chair of the Council’s Planning Committee.

THE MUSIC HAS TO STOP AT SPAGHETTI TREE

On 14 May a sub-committee of Sutton Council’s Licensing Committee considered a string of complaints by local residents about noise nuisance from the Spaghetti Tree restaurant in Brighton Road. As the restaurant is in our Ward, none of the Ward Councillors could sit as members of the sub-committee, as those taking the decision must be independent from any local influence. The committee considered whether this anti-social behaviour, involving the frequent playing of music at loud volume and thus disturbing local residents, was a breach of the licence conditions for regulated entertainment that governed the operation of the restaurant. The committee was concerned about the disturbance and decided to vary the licence of the restaurant to prevent the playing of live and recorded music as regulated entertainment at the premises. The owner has 21 days to appeal against the decision.

This is sad – but the owners of premises must recognise that licence conditions are imposed to protect the local residents and they will be enforced, so they cannot be ignored without there being consequences.

A STRONG SHOWING BY THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS IN THE MAY LOCAL ELECTIONS – AND BY TRISH

Liberal Democrat candidates recorded some remarkable victories in the local elections held nationwide on 2 May 2024. Across England, Liberal Democrats won 521 Council seats, more than the Tories, with a net gain of 104 seats.
 
Trish stood as our candidate in the Greater London Authority constituency elections. Our constituency covered Croydon as well as Sutton so this was not a winnable seat for the Liberal Democrats. However, Trish performed remarkably well. She pushed our share of the vote up from 14.4% to 15.8%. We were one of only five constituencies where we beat both the Greens and Reform, taking third place in the constituency member vote.
 

Trish was our candidate for the Sutton and Croydon GLA constituency. Here she is with Richard and our Mayoral candidate, Rob Blackie, outside Sutton train station

 
In the Mayoral election our candidate, Rob Blackie, performed well and secured third place, ahead of the Greens and Reform. We note that Sadiq Khan won the Mayoralty despite the unpopularity locally of ULEZ, a policy we have opposed. Our views on ULEZ are set out in articles further down. Below is a photo of our visit to City Hall, the HQ of the Mayor of London, on 30 June 2023 to present the petition expressing opposition to ULEZ signed by over 10 000 Sutton residents.
 

Louise, Trish and Richard at City Hall to present to the Mayor of London the petition opposing ULEZ signed by over 10 000 Sutton residents

SETTING UP THE “FRIENDS OF THE DEVONSHIRE AVENUE NATURE AREA”: WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN?

We are working with Sutton Council to set up a Friends of Devonshire Avenue Nature Area group.

Would you like to join it? The nature area is the only open space in our Ward, in an area where many children live in flats without access to a garden. As it is the only open space in our Ward it is precious to us. It is a nature area so requires careful management. To join the Friends group email the Sutton Council officer leading the work, Dawn Fielding

dawn.fielding@sutton.gov.uk

We have secured funding for improvements to the nature area – to the signage and the seating and to clean off the graffiti. On 18 October last year the three Councillors met with several Council officers from the Parks Department at the Nature Area to discuss improvements to the area, and we subsequently took proposals to the local committee to obtain funding for improvement work. On 23 January we met with the volunteers from Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers who were engaged in necessary maintenance activities at the site. There is discussion about how to best use the area, protect biodiversity (such as the rare “ivy broomrape” which is found in the nature area) while keeping it well used by residents, reduce litter and graffiti, and whether it should be locked at night. Please contact us with your views and to join the Friends group.

While the Nature Reserve is the only open space in our Ward two parks are adjacent – Warren Park at the north eastern boundary of the Ward and Overton Park at the south western boundary. There are also steps being taken to establish Friends groups for these parks, in particular Warren Park. If you live close to one of these parks and would like to join the Friends group contact Dawn Fielding

dawn.fielding@sutton.gov.uk

FURTHER MEETING OF THE POLICE CONSULTATIVE PANEL: NO THEFTS OF CATALYTIC CONVERTERS IN THE WARD FOR ALMOST A YEAR

Our police station in Carshalton Road

The police consultative panel for Sutton South Ward met again on the evening of 24 April, at Devonshire Avenue school. There are open, public meetings held quarterly at which the police discuss the policing of the Ward with local residents. We were addressed by our Ward Constable, Constable Robyn Skivens, who went through the crime statistics for the Ward. The meeting was, sadly, not as well attended as the previous meeting held in January at Overton Grange school.

There had been an increase in burglaries but a decline in the number of thefts of and from vehicles. While many of these burglaries were of sheds and garages, there is a need for residents to be vigilant and keep buildings locked. During the period from the turn of the year there had been 18 burglaries in the Ward. Many of these were the burglary of garden sheds and the many garages in the Ward, and some were burglaries from commercial premises in Brighton Road. There were 12 incidents involving motor vehicles – theft from or of vehicles. There had again been no thefts of catalytic converters. There were 10 other thefts – mainly parcel or phone thefts, or of pedal cycles. There were a small number of robberies around the train station. The police have continued to organise patrols around the station.

There had been 5 drug offences recorded. There had been 4 “dog incidents” – dogs being dangerously out of control or biting people. There were 3 incidents involving the harassment of women and girls, offences the police take very seriously.

There is important advice from the police is not to leave anything valuable in your car and be careful to check it is locked when you leave the car. The police always stress the need to report all crime, however trivial.

Constable Skivens commented on the number of “extractions” that occur, when she and her Sutton South colleagues are asked to leave Ward duties and assist in activities elsewhere. This reduces attention to Ward matters. Concern was expressed at the meeting on the level of police resources.

The meeting discussed the difficulties the police have in recruitment and the concerns we have about the mental welfare of police officers. The meeting thanked Constable Skivens for her dedication to our Ward over a number of years, now, and for her work.

Our police officers were again commended for attending the Sutton South Hello Christmas party on their day off (see photo below).

The next meeting was provisionally arranged for Wednesday June 26 at Devonshire Avenue school.

Louise, Trish and Richard with our Ward police officers at the Sutton South Hello Christmas party

THE COUNCIL BUDGET APPROVED

On 4 March the Council discussed the budget proposals for the coming year. Legally, the Council is required to set a balanced budget. With so many Councils going bust or in great financial difficulty, this was always going to be a difficult task. The problems are due to Government cuts but also a big spike in demand for services. While people think of the Council as the people who mend the potholes, empty the bins and fix the street lights, 70% of spending is on adult social care and children’s services (particularly for those children with special educational needs), plus the cost of finding accommodation for the homeless. There has been a major increase in demand in the past year, particularly in the number of adults whose social care has to be paid for by the Council and in the number of homeless families.

Trish and Richard both spoke in the debate, Trish on the role of audit and governance (she chairs the Audit and Governance Committee) and Richard on homelessness – a subject in which he has a special interest due to the work history of his daughter, Ellie, and because as chair of Planning Committee he has a role in increasing the supply of affordable family accommodation.

Here is Richard’s speech:

“There is a statistic buried on page 21 of the main paper that an
extra £2.75 million is needed due to the additional demand for
temporary accommodation. This is the cost of homelessness – and
tonight 1045 Sutton families are homeless and living in bed
and breakfast accommodation, many of them some distance from
Sutton. I find this a frightening figure.
I commend what the Council is doing – not set out at length in
these papers before us tonight – to help people avoid
homelessness and to assist them if it happens. And I am pleased at what we are doing to increase the supply of affordable family homes.

But what a local authority can do is limited. This is a national issue.
There has been a major spike in homelessness in the last year,
not just in Sutton but nation wide.
We ought to recognise the causes of this – that families have been
priced out of their homes by the cost of living crisis and the 14
consecutive monthly increases in interest rates that followed the
famous budget based on the principles associated with those
revered icons of the Conservative right Kwasi Kwarteng and – Lis
Truss – who I see is now re-inventing herself as an icon of
American and British deep state conspiracy theorists.
Who cares about homelessness ? Not the Government, which
ignores reasonable policy proposals that would help, such as the
proposals last week from the LGA to lift the cap on housing benefit
subsidy for temporary accommodation, increase
discretionary housing payments and – most important – ensure that local housing
allowance rates track market rates.
Not Rishi Sunak, whose often repeated targets we are asked to
judge him on – not that he is achieving them – do not include any
target on reducing homelessness, which he clearly does not see
as important. I find that shocking.
And can I mention the contribution to the debate of that other great
icon of the Conservative right Suella Braverman who told us the
homelessness crisis was largely caused by foreigners and by
people who chose homelessness as a life style, and that the big issue was
“Should they be allowed to sleep in tents ?”
That seems cruelly remote from our homeless residents worried
about how to get their kids to school in Sutton when they are in B
and B accommodation in Slough or Heathrow, or somewhere.
This is a problem causing destitution and poverty.
We are doing what we can – but it requires Government action and the Tory Government is in
complete denial.”

MEASURING TRAFFIC IN OUR WARD

It is some years since we have last had an exercise to measure the volume and speed of traffic in our Ward. The last time this happened it enabled us to introduce some measures to calm traffic in Cavendish Road. From Monday 19th February these tubes, integral to traffic measurement equipment, appeared in many local roads at the eastern end of the Ward. The tubes collected data for seven days on the volume, speed and classification of vehicles. The data will be collated and the implications considered.

ADVANCES IN OUR WARD

We are always seeking ways to improve the quality of life locally. The defibrillator installed in Brighton Road outside Northumberland House, pictured above, is a potentially important facility, but we were disturbed to learn that the one at the railway station a few hundred metres north of this location has been stolen. Action is in hand to replace it.

Many new street trees have been planted in the Ward including, in the recent period, new trees in Farm Road, Devonshire Avenue, Effingham Close, Prior Avenue and Kayemoor Road, adding to the pleasant, green, suburban feel of our Ward. We are delighted that the tree that had to be felled in Brighton Road, outside Northumberland House, as it was diseased, has been replaced, thanks to funding we obtained from the Council’s Public Realm budget.

The fencing in The Quadrant, nearby, which had become damaged has been repaired, also with funding we obtained from the Public Realm budget.

In addition, Sutton Council was delighted to be successful in obtaining funding to upgrade rail services to Belmont Station. The funding will allow train services to double from two to four trains per hour and will also facilitate improvements to the station. This will improve transport to the Cancer Hub.

MORE APPLICATIONS FOR EXTRA STOREYS

The owners of Harrow Lodge, 28 Eaton Road, have used a device known as “Prior Approval” to obtain planning permission to extend the building – adding a storey to the top of the building, with some other changes. This will add 10 new flats to the building. In Mulgrave Road the owners of The Rowans, 47 Mulgrave Road, have similarly obtained planning application to add 8 new flats by adding two storeys to the top of the building. This is a current trend – to add extra storeys to the top of blocks of flats.

The applicants both used a device in national planning law known as “Prior Approval” which means that Councillors cannot take the application to the Council’s Planning Committee. We consider that this procedure was introduced to undermine the planning system and reduce local control of planning decisions. We are not able to stop these changes taking place as the system means the application has to be assessed by Council officers against a narrow set of criteria and if the application is refused the Planning Inspectorate, based in Bristol, has the power to over-ride local decisions.

As your local Councillors, we are concerned about these developments. While there is a need for more accommodation, these changes will involve building work that will impact on residents. However we seek to ensure that conditions are stipulated in any planning permission, if it is granted, to protect the peace and quiet of the residents during construction work. These include that access to the roof should be via an external hoist, the interior of the building should not be a storage area or building site, there should be a construction management plan, the contractors should join the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme, and there should be a liaison officer residents can contact. If scaffolding is erected it should only be erected when needed and removed as soon as it is not needed.

A similar application for extra storeys on the roof of the building at Chelsea Court in Mulgrave Road was turned down on the basis of our representations that it would have made the building look incongruous. And a similar application in relation to Magnolia Court in Grange Road was withdrawn in the light of our opposition.

We welcome feedback on your views on planning proposals. You can see the details and comment on planning applications via the Sutton Council website (go to the section on planning) or comment by post to

Development Management, Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, SM1 1EA.

NEW HOMES LOCALLY TO MEET THE HOUSING CRISIS

On 30 November Richard and Trish sat as members of the Council’s Planning Committee, with Richard chairing the meeting, to consider the fate of the B and Q site in central Sutton. This is just outside our Ward. B and Q plan to close the store next June. Richard commented that, though he is no do-it-yourself fanatic, he regretted the closure of the store, but B and Q say it no longer makes them money and they have decided to close.

It is inevitable that the site will be developed as housing. There is no demand for new office space (more people work at home) or new shops (more people shop using the internet) but there is a housing crisis. On the day of the discussion 970 Sutton families were homeless and living in bed and breakfast accommodation, at the expense of the Council and thus our Council tax payers. More homes are desperately needed. The philosophy in the Sutton local plan is to meet our housing targets partly through a more intensive area of development close to the town centre and near the railway station. As public transport links are good in this area it is possible to envisage a car free or “car light” development – if you have to provide a parking space for every house many fewer homes can be built. This reduces development pressure on the borough’s suburban heartland and Green Belt areas. Planning Committee often considers proposals to build on the Green Belt which we resist, but the new homes must go somewhere. The more intensive development in the town centre will inevitably include some tall buildings, and there is a cluster close to the railway station.

Evidence was presented to the committee on action taken to deal with some of the consequences of this development, such as a need for places in local schools, demands on health services and additional strain on water and sewage systems. Richard commented that there were attractive features to the proposed development, 60% of which would be open space, including an area of public parkland, a water feature, an amphitheatre and terraced roof gardens. The most important aspect, though, was the plan for 337 “affordable” homes where Sutton Council can place the most deserving of the 2 600 families on the housing register. This will include families that are homeless or those we meet, in our Ward, who are living in dreadful housing circumstances – sometimes families with three or four children living together in tiny flats.

The planning application was approved. Initially all that local people will observe is the closure of the store, hoardings put up round the site and the store demolished. Then there will be building work but it will be several years before anyone moves in. Eventually, it will be an attractive, landscaped site. On the website

www.chalkgardens.co.uk

there is a video of a walk through a CGI representation of what the final product will look like.